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Haaland: the Real Madrid target who owes much to Solskjaer

A striker who learned his trade under the Man United boss at Molde, Erling Braut Haaland has been one of the sensations of the season so far.

Haland, celebrando uno de sus goles con el Salzburgo.
Andreas SchaadBongarts/Getty Images

Erling Braut Haaland may be attracting the interest of Real Madrid after a sensational start to the season that has made much of Europe sit up and take notice, but the coaching reports that the RB Salzburg goal-getter earned at Molde earlier in his career were not what you might expect.

"He's not a naturally-gifted finisher," was the verdict reached by the backroom team at Molde, who at the time were managed by current Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. "However, he possesses an extraordinary capacity to take new ideas on board - and has real sang froid." This final characteristic is something Haaland shares with Solskjaer, a player who was dubbed the 'Baby-faced Assassin' during his successful, 11-season spell at United.

Haaland's work with Solskjaer clear to see in striker's play

There is no pretence from Solskjaer that he taught Haaland to slow down the beating of his heart in the milliseconds before making a decision; that's a quality that comes pre-installed. But the legendary striker did help the teenager out in other ways, investing hours in him on the training ground, in both collective and individual sessions.

The imaginative, penetrative runs Haaland makes; a degree of spacial awareness that half suggests he has eyes in the back of his head; his perfectly chosen body shape as he prepares to pull the trigger. These are just a few of the many things he worked on under the watchful eye of his former coach.

Another noticeable Haaland trait is the carefree way he goes about his business out on the pitch, as if enjoying a playground kickabout with his chums. That's how he approaches life in general: with a smile on his face, uninterested in the pressure he might be under. A dressing-room joker almost to a fault - he can be known to play gags that, though certainly not malicious, simply leave others scratching their heads - he has taken everything in his stride with the calm of a seasoned veteran. Qué será, será. Given United are managed by his countryman, it is not surprising that Haaland has also been linked with the Red Devils.

True, he still has the look of a player who has just arrived at the game's elite level, but there seems to be little doubt that he's here to stay. Although Martin Odegaard remains the focus of the Norwegian media's attention - he is the biggest sports star the country has produced in a number of years - people are also tracking Haaland's progress with fingers crossed, hopeful he can deliver on his promise.